When I first started doing genealogy last summer, my Mom said "I suppose you'll find a horse-thief in there somewhere." Well, I don't know about any horse-thieves, but I do know about Wyatt Earp.
As I went farther back in family history, I saw that my grandfather, James Randall, married a certain Jemima Earp, whose father had been in the American Revolution
When you hear the name Earp, you probably think of Wyatt Earp, the famous gunfighter, sheriff, boxer, pimp, hunter, gambler, jail escapee, etc. (and my 3rd cousin 4 x removed). But if you travel back about a hundred years, you'll land on a much more honorable set of Earps, including my 5th maternal great-grandfather, Josiah. His brother, Phillip, is the great-grandfather of Wyatt, so I won't take Cousin Wyatt's antics too personally.
Josiah, though, was just 14 or 15 when the Revolutionary War erupted in 1775, and with his father and brothers, took part in it later on. Apparently he guarded prisoners of war after the surrender of General Charles Cornwallis in 1781, when Josiah was 19 or 20. Later on in life he was granted a military pension--by then he had settled in Kentucky and started a family, including my great-grandmother Jemima.
A few things strike me as interesting when I think about Josiah Earp. Unlike his great-grand-nephew, he didn't cause controversy or get arrested or create havoc in anyone's life, as far as I know. Josiah did his patriotic duty as a young man and then he just got on with his life, without fanfare. In so many ways, Josiah is like the rest of us, just quietly bumping along in life, getting through the day, taking time with family, building a life. Unlike Cousin Wyatt, there was a stability with Josiah, a sense of place and contentment that is inspiring and comforting.
Josiah Earp is like the common man in that regard, yet his willingness to participate in the country's fight for independence takes him just a notch above the rest of us. Sure, he was a guard and not in combat, but he still played a crucial role. Guys like Josiah made it possible for others to go into combat and to go into negotiations and do all the other glamorous parts of war. Guys like Josiah are the quiet heroes of war because they accept the "smaller" duties simply of holding the line. Unlike the British guards, who abused and harassed their American prisoners, guards like Josiah were ordered by George Washington to "treat them with humanity. Let them have no reason to complain of our copying the brutal example of the British army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren who have fallen into their hands."
Josiah Earp couldn't have imagined that his brother's great-grandson would become so notorious, but it's likely that he wasn't thinking that far ahead. While it's important to consider the future and to learn from the past, perhaps the best thing to learn from Josiah Earp is simply to remain in the present, to take care of oneself and ones family, and to enjoy those brief years that God has given to each of us.
For most of my life, I knew only a little of my family history. When I joined Ancestry.com in 2015, I started to see just how extraordinary making those family connections is.